Don't Mess With Success?

While no company makes a product expecting it not to sell, I remember reps from Toshiba telling me in a meeting about how surprised they were by the original Portege R700's success. The slim form factor, matte plastic shell, and chiclet keyboard were a major departure from their other notebooks, but the success with the design seemed to have struck such a chord that Toshiba took design cues from the R700 and adapted them part and parcel to the Tecra R800 series.

Progress in the industry can be slow, though, and while I've seen some of the pretty radical changes Toshiba has planned for the back-to-school season this year, the Portege R835's shell hasn't really changed much from its predecessor. You could go back and take a look at Vivek's thoughts on the R700's design and apply most of the same information to the R835.

The difference, though, is that his review unit was north of $1,600. The one we have on hand is just $849, and what's unacceptable at a premium price can merely feel like a compromise at a more mainstream cost. Gone from our unit are the fingerprint reader, matte display, and ExpressCard slot; the one concession we get back is the USB 3.0 port, which is welcome enough.

My feelings do echo Vivek's regarding the keyboard, though. While the touchpad and touchpad buttons are perfectly fine and even pleasant enough to use, I'm not a fan of this keyboard. The slightly shorter keys Toshiba employs for this keyboard (and for the one on their ultrabook, the Portege Z830) feel just different enough in size to throw off my typing, and the action of the keys themselves is on the mushy side. I'm also not sure why Toshiba persists in using a glossy finish on their "premium" keyboards; the matte keyboards they use on lesser notebooks are actually more comfortable and practical in my opinion. To their credit, Toshiba continues to use a generally fantastic key layout, with dedicated document navigation keys and arrow keys that are all the same size.

 

With all that in mind, the relative absence of gloss elsewhere on the notebook is much appreciated. The matte black plastic with brushed aluminum pattern looks slightly chintzy, but generally it's the kind of minimalistic aesthetic that I personally enjoy. The placement of expansion ports is smart, and access panels on the bottom allow the end user to quickly and easily replace the memory and 2.5" drive. Something else you're not liable to see in an ultrabook (besides the optical drive) is present here, too: a user-replaceable battery.

I'm not necessarily wowed by the Portege R835 as a whole, but I'm not underwhelmed by it either. Toshiba's designers seem to have tried to make the most of the limited real estate the form factor provides, and while nicer build materials would've probably helped they also would've been liable to drive the total system cost up.

Introducing the Toshiba Portege R835 System Performance
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  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    You guys are really down on laptops with HDDs. Yes, you are enthusiasts, but apparently you are forgetting that 99% of laptops sold come with a 5,400RPM HDD. I personally have a $380 Lenovo Z565 (Upgraded slightly) with a WD Scorpio 320GB that is perfectly sufficient for my needs (I have a Crucial m4 in my desktop). No, it isn't as fast booting up or starting programs as an SSD would be, but it's not horrible either, and it's perfectly usable.

    I think you guys pay too much attention to the high end. Maybe you should start doing reviews on more mainstream models that people actually BUY. Go into your local Best Buy, and take your pick of laptop hardware from $400-$700. There are plenty of them, and those are the volume sellers, that most consumer actually BUY. They don't come with SSDs, or lots of bells and whistles. But anandtech reviews $1000+ unit after $1000+ unit. I don't NEED a laptop that price, that's what I have my 2500k based desktop for.
    Reply
  • cknobman - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Sorry but I am with AnandTech on this one.

    I loath any laptop (or desktop) with a HDD boot drive now and would never consider buying a new computer that did not have an SSD.

    In fact with todays HDD and SSD price I really see no reason (especially in a laptop) to use and HDD as a primary boot drive. You can buy a fantastic 120GB SSD for <=$120.

    For me I dont need 300+ GB of storage in my laptop, that is what I have desktops and servers for at home. All I need on a laptop is enough storage to install my OS, important programs, a few games, and then as needed transfer over any large data files from my server/desktop.

    The user experience from and HDD to SSD really is a big leap and it does in fact change the perception of a laptop and its usability. I went from never using my laptop, due to loathing 5+ minute startup times, to it being my "go to" machine as I can have it up and running in seconds(literally).
    Reply
  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Then you are doing it wrong. My $380 laptop with HDD starts up in a minute to a fully usable desktop. While I'm not disagreeing with anand on the benefits of SSD (Remember, I have one in my desktop), what most people fail to remember ist hat the laptops MOST consumers buy are in the $350-$700 price range. Firstly, people aren't going to understand the benefits of SSD, they are going to see "Oh it only has a 64GB Harddrive? Pass" Secondly, they aren't going to want to pay more for it. I spent 18 months selling computers to people, and on both of these points I can garuntee. Reply
  • lewisl9029 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Personally I would much rather buy a laptop that comes with an HDD and decide which SSD to upgrade to on my own rather than to pay premium for one with an unknown brand/controller that the manufacturer decides to shove in there for the sake of having an SSD. Reply
  • Loberts91 - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    I agree with this. I wouldn't buy a laptop that has an SSD simply because it could be bundled with CRAP. I have an Agility 3 and know what a crap SSD is really like. I plan on buying a laptop with a HDD and buying a Samsung 830 60GB for it, least that way I know that it has a quality SSD.

    Besides, the HDDs are selling second hand like hot cakes on ebay, allowing you to make some money back on the ordeal.
    Reply
  • cknobman - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Oh so you have a laptop with a factory image (not a hdd that you wiped and performed your own custom install and disabled everything) that starts in 1 minute? I call bs.

    Not only have I sold laptops/desktops (at BestBuy) before but I have also been building my own systems (and for family) for over a decade.

    Customers will buy from the options they are given, take a look at ultrabooks as plenty of them come with smaller SSDs.

    I dont know a single person who does not despise their slow performing laptop when it comes to system startup/shutdown/app startup. All of this would be remedied with an SSD.

    I have a pretty good grasp of different user bases as I am a applications developer in a corporate environment so not only do I (and fellow developers) deal with slow hard drives in our laptops but I am also interfacing (on a regular basis) with business users in who feel the same.
    Reply
  • Chubblez - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Not really.

    Lenovo X120e
    AMD E350
    4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM)
    Stock 320GB 7MM Hitachi (5400RPM)

    Cold to desktop in 51sec.

    Lenovo W520
    Intel i7 2760QM
    16GB DDR3
    Seagate 500GB 7200RPM

    Cold to desktop in 45 sec.

    Desktop:
    AMD FX4 3150 (I think. The cheap quad-core)
    16GB DDR3
    2x Seagate 1TB SATA 6 in RAID 0

    Cold to desktop in 48 sec.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Lenovo X121e
    AMD E350
    4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM)
    Stock 320GB 7MM Hitachi (5400RPM)

    A very nice machine.. unless you want it to do anything HDD-related. That's so dog-slow, even my GF notices! (having seen alternatives around the house..)
    Reply
  • ExarKun333 - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    You sound clueless. Just click 'no' on those banner adds from now on...;) Reply
  • cknobman - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    Snide remark with no relevant input on the subject at hand and your calling me clueless???? LOL. Reply

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